Bend expert reacts to nationwide sex-trafficking sting
Across the country, more than 100 children saved. Sex slaves recovered as far away as New Jersey, and as close as Portland.
“We want them to know that they can get help and get out of this life style of abuse and violence,” Portland FBI spokeswoman Beth Anne Steele said Monday.
The FBI concluded its largest sex-trafficking sting on Monday, a three day sweep of 76 cities, with 150 arrests — the youngest victim only 13.
“I’m thrilled — I’m always happy when law enforcement has stepped up to try to rescue victims and put perpetrators away,” Nita Belles of the Central Oregon Chapter of Oregonians Against Trafficking Humans (OATH) said Tuesday.
Belles is an expert on human trafficking and has written a book on the subject.
She says with this sting, it’s not the end, but the beginning.
“There will be pimps waiting for them,” Belles said. “They have choices to make, and there’s recovery that is too big for us to possibly imagine. They’re been raped anywhere from 10 to 30 times a night now, for however long they’ve been trafficked.”
While she prays for victims to heal, Belle also hopes the nationwide sting will shed light on a harsh truth — trafficking is more common than you might think.
“It’s not just the inner-city child. It happens right here in Bend, Oregon, in Central Oregon,” Belles said.
It can happen anywhere — and becoming a sex slave doesn’t always involve kidnapping.
“Sometimes the kids do live at home and are trafficked,” Belles said. “They may be tired, they may be in contact with people we don’t know. Their grades may be slipping.”
Belle says she’s seen trafficked children from all walks of life — but to all, her message is the same.
“There is help, there are services, places to go. There are people who will genuinely care about you. And they understand you’ve been through a lot, and they’ll help you walk through it.”
More information: http://www.oregonoath.org/